Part of our Series on How to Sell on Amazon for Beginners
Your Choices: Direct to FBA or with a Third Party Logistics Company (3PL)Getting your products to Amazon FBA really boils down to two choices: you can either ship your items directly to Amazon FBA warehouses from China or you can first ship to yourself or a 3PL and then ship to Amazon FBA. If you're shipping directly from China, you will have to instruct your Chinese supplier to prepare your goods completely to FBA specifications. This normally isn't a problem but can sometimes be challenging. If you're shipping via a U.S. Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider or yourself (if you're in the United States), you can have one consolidated shipment from China broken into smaller packages, quality inspected and prepped for FBA. Using a 3PL will cost more money though.
Using Import Records to Find and Vet Chinese Suppliers
One of the best things an importer can do is to use import records to help them find products to import and vet suppliers.
As mentioned, in America, import and export records are public information, however, the government does not catalog or give easy access to this information. However, there are tools that do allow you to easily search this information, the most popular and cheapest being Jungle Scout (others include Import Genius and Panjiva).
These tools allow you to:
- Find out what Chinese supplier a competitor is using (great for finding products)
- See how much a supplier exports
- Find out what suppliers export specific products
See our article A Secret Weapon for Doing Supplier Research
The Pros/Cons of Shipping Direct to Amazon FBALet's look at the pros and cons of shipping direct to Amazon from China.
Direct to FBA Pros
- Less handling of your products
Direct to FBA Cons
- Can't inspect order domestically before it gets to Amazon
- Can't use partnered carriers
- Shipments to multiple Amazon FCs is challenging
- Supplier knows you're selling on Amazon
Why Multiple FCs and How to Avoid it?
Amazon typically requires you to ship to multiple FCs for oversize items and/or if you mix a shipment with items requiring prep/not requiring prep.
How do you avoid shipping to multiple FCs?
- Avoid combining oversize and standard size items
- Avoid combining shipments that need prep and don't need prep
- Turn inventory placement on
- Use Amazon Dragon Boat (Amazon Global Logistics)
If you're shipping oversize items, unfortunately, you are going to likely be stuck shipping to multiple FCs and it's hard to ship direct to Amazon without turning on inventory placement.
To turn on Inventory Placement, go to to Settings -> Fulfillment by Amazon. This will make all of your items go to one distribution center.
Inventory Placement can be pricey: For non-oversize items, it's $0.40 per item + $0.10 per pound over 2 lbs. For oversized items, it is $1.30 per item + $0.20 per pound over 5 lbs. You can only turn on Inventory Placement for some shipments: just turn on Inventory Placement, create the shipment, and then turn it off. Only those items will be charged the above fees.If you use Amazon Global Logistics (the Dragon Boat) for your shipments, Amazon will automatically give you “FC Lock” meaning your shipments will go to only one Amazon warehouse. Enrolling in Amazon Global Logistics is normally reserved only for Chinese sellers, but in our Importing Course we show you how Western sellers can get enrolled.
There are also a few blackhat workarounds that we do not encourage as they can very likely get you in trouble with Amazon:
- Ignore the additional FCs and just ship to one
- Send in a dummy oversize item in a standard size box and have it measured by Amazon. Amazon will think your items are standard size until they re-measure your items. Make sure to recall your dummy item before you sell it.
- Use software like SellerChain.com which can sometimes use a backdoor to get shipments to one FC
Three Easy Steps to Ship Direct to Amazon from ChinaBelow will outline how to ship direct to China using sea or air shipping. If you'd like to ship full containers to Amazon you can see our full article on how to ship full containers direct from China to Amazon FBA.
- Create your shipment in Seller Central. Ensure you are shipping only to one FC if shipping via sea freight. Use a southern California Ship From address such as the address below. This increases the likelihood of you being able to ship to a California FC, which is the most efficient distance wise from China (Amazon does not care what address you put here as you cannot use partnered carriers).
- Have your supplier apply barcodes to each individual item, carton labels to each master carton, and pallet labels to the four sides of each pallet (if shipping pallets). A pallet will look like below. If exporting pallets from China you must ensure the pallets are ISPM-15. They may charge you more for this.
- Arrange with your freight forwarder for door-to-door service from China to the address of the designated Amazon warehouse. Ensure your freight forwarder has shipped to Amazon before and is comfortable with their carrier appointment requirements (most are).
All Duties and Freight Must be Prepaid
Amazon won't pay a penny to accept your products so they must be shipped Delivery Duty Paid (DDP).
If you're shipping via sea, this isn't an issue as you will most likely need a customs broker to clear your shipment. However, if shipping via air courier (i.e. UPS/FedEx/etc.) by default duties and other charges will be billed to the receiver. If shipping air courier you must specify for the charges to be billed to the sender (DDP).
If you're shipment is below $800 cost then it will fall below the $800 de minimis threshold and no duties should be owing.
The Pros/Cons of Shipping to a Third Party Logistics (3PL) Company FirstLet's now look at the Pros and Cons of shipping first to a 3PL.
- Can inspect the order domestically before it arrives at Amazon
- Can use partnered carriers
- Dividing shipments to multiple Amazon FCs is easy
- More expensive
- More handling of your products
When to Ship Direct and When to Use a Middle ManSo when should you ship direct to Amazon and when should you use a 3PL? When to use a middleman when shipping to Amazon FBA:
- It's your first shipment from a supplier, this way you can inspect it and also have an American based company prep/label it.
- It's your first time using FBA, this way you avoid making any errors resulting in your shipment being rejected and sent back to China.
- It's financially cheaper to use a middleman specifically due to the savings in having one consolidated shipment sent from China.
- You're shipping a small physical amount of products (1 carton) and it is valued under $800.
- Time is absolutely critical for you and every day counts.
- You have lengthy experience with your supplier (and/or you've used a third party inspection agency in China) and you have lengthy experience shipping products to Amazon FBA and it's cheaper than using a middleman.